When I first hear about close friends’ and family members’ pregnancies, my initial reaction is to shop. Quite honestly, that is my initial reaction to many things, but my urge stems from a place of wanting those close to me to feel comfortable and well cared for in the somewhat uncomfortable upcoming nine months.
I was doing some online shopping yesterday for a close friend and noticed something odd. All of the maternity models in a mainstream, online marketplace many of us know as ASOS are not pregnant! The maternity section of ASOS sports twiggy models with seemingly impossible and oddly shaped balloon-like structures taped to their stomachs. They model dresses, shirts, pajamas, and even maternity shapewear- yet it is patently obvious they are, in fact, not pregnant at all. The prosthetic bumps the models wear jut out in awkward angles and are similar to the fake pregnant pillow stuffing we all are guilty of using as children.
I turned to almighty Google shortly afterwards to figure this issue out. It didn’t sit right with me that, in a world of diversity and open mindedness, there would be discrimination against pregnant women. It does makes sense to have pregnant women modeling pregnancy clothes! Super model Chrissy Teigen has recently described how, along with stretch marks and skin rashes, she has gotten larger thighs and more defined hips (all completely healthy and normal!). To me, the widening of the hips and thighs and the bloating of the abdomen should be accurately portrayed by pregnant models. A skin tight dress can look fabulous on a pregnant woman, but it does look different on a size 2 model with a prosthetic bump.
After some digging, I got to the bottom of the problem. It turns out that ASOS has a policy that doesn’t allow pregnant women to model for them. On Twitter, ASOS answered an outraged woman stating that they value their models’ health and don’t want them on their feet during their pregnancy. Many followers were unhappy with this answer, and rightly so. As a result of not employing pregnant models, potential and actual customers don’t get to see an actual portrayal of how the clothes will look. Other Twitter followers tweeted come-backs along the lines that “pregnant working women are on their feet all day anyway.”
This realization led me to discover the niche world of pregnancy modeling. Pregnancy modeling agencies have popped up around the country to cater to the demand of pregnant women in stock photos, Old Navy and Gap ads, and family advertisements. Although other modeling agencies such as Ford and Wilhelmina do have few pregnant models, many clients choose maternity agencies as they have a much bigger variety.
Liza Elliott-Ramirez, of Expecting Models in Los Angeles, is a woman who actually experienced the harshness of modeling while pregnant. Since 2000 Ms. Elliott-Ramirez’s modeling agency has dealt only with professional models during and immediately following their pregnancies. She came up with the idea when she could not get work as a model after she became pregnant. She had worked in front of the camera since age 14, when a photographer scouted her in Sag Harbor, NY. At age 36 she worked until the second trimester of her pregnancy. Liza goes on to say, “I literally signed 14 girls in two weeks,” she said. “Ford, Wilhelmina, Elite — they’re not going to get all the calls. That’s not their specialty. That’s like shopping at Home Depot, expecting to find great pasta.” In 2008, Liza moved to Los Angeles and expanded her agency to include babies, dads, and moms. Liza explains that chemistry on set is something you can’t fake, especially when a newborn baby is involved.
The takeaway from this lesson for me is that pregnancy is a beautiful thing. And so is your changing body. When shopping online, it is important to remember not to compare your bump, your legs, or your ankles to the women on the screen!